His Risâla al-i`tibâr

English translation
Arabic text

Born in Cordoba, Andalusia (Spain), Ibn-Masarra (883-931) had to take refuge in the mountains because of persecution by Mâlikî jurists. We must remember that he came very early in the philosophical movement in the lands of Islam, following the pious al-Kindî, and contemporary of the radical Muhammad ar-Râzî. (1)

He had already absorbed the main teachings of neo-Platonism and propounds them in an Islamic context in two short treatises which are the only works of his to have survived, the Risâla al-i`tibâr, and Khawâss al-hurűf. (2)

After noting the contents of the two works and summarizing their teaching, I present a translation of Risâla al-i`tibâr, together with the Arabic text.

The Risâla al-i`tibâr

The main purpose and unifying theme of the Risâla al-i`tibâr is to defend the use of reason, i.e. philosophy, to arrive at the highest truths. This treatise, in spite of its criticism of philosophers, is an early version of Ibn-Rushd's Fasl al-maqâl.

Besides this main theme, Ibn-Masarra presents a picture of the neo-Platonic hierarchical cosmos in a "model demonstration" that shows the value of "inference" (i`tibâr).

The Khawâss al-hurűf

The Khawâss al-hurűf is a presentation of the neoplatonic universe in the form of a highly allegorical exegesis of the Qur'ân, taking the letters (hurűf) at the beginning of any sűra as a key to its inner meaning.

Ibn-Masarra's philosophy in these two works

    God and the world

In his Risâla al-i`tibâr Ibn-Masarra begins with the observation that the nature of the elements cannot explain why water rises in a plant. His mind then turns to the heavenly bodies as an explanation. From there he turns to the world of heavenly souls, then intelligences, and finally God, the king of all. (3) Ibn-Masarra then outlined a hierarchical universe, where God first created his throne (al-`arsh), then his chair (al-kursî), then the seven heavens. The highest sphere is the "soul sphere" (fulk an-nafs) or "animal spirit", which is subject to a superior intelligence, which in turn is subject to God. (4)

Ibn-Masarra speaks often of different categories of angels, and comes back to "the universal intellect" (al-`aql al-kullî) and "the great soul" (an-nafs al-kubrâ), from which come revelation (dhikr) and "Be" (kun) in this world, which is surrounded by "universal space" (al-makân al-kullî) and "universal time" (az-zamân al-kullî). (5)

Ibn-Masarra also observes that nothing below God subsists by itself, but is contingent (yaqűm bi-ghayri-hi), depending on superior beings. Yet Ibn-Masarra speaks of intermediate contingency, not immediate dependence on God. (6)

God himself, not being contained in any genus, can be known only a posteriori. (7) In his Khawâss al-hurűf Ibn-Masarra says that we cannot have a comprehensive knowledge of God, but only a general or comparative knowledge. There are three ways of knowing God, first by metaphysics (rubűbiyya), then by prophetic revelation (an-nubuwwa) and finally by the test (al-minha) found in his laws, threats and promises. (8) The best way to know God is to consider his names and attributes mentioned in the Qur'ân. (9) These are many, but each one implies all the others. (10) Meditation on the names of God, particularly his "greatest name" is not an esoteric (makhfî) but a privileged (khusűsî) avenue to wisdom. (11) God is both revealed and hidden by his creatures, whether spiritual (al-ghayb) or material (ash-shahâda). (12)


Ibn-Masarra distinguishes two kinds of determination. Of the first he says:

The exemplars of things and their determinations are resting beyond motion. They are all contained in the mother-book, and undergo no change, substitution or transfer.

From these derive detailed decisions (al-qadâyâ al-mufassala), which are subject to change and exception. Prayer is useful with regard to this kind of determination but not the first. (13)

    The human soul

Ibn-Masarra developed the idea that the human soul is guided by the "great soul" (an-nafs al-kubrâ) of the heavenly world and the separated intelligences beyond. (14) He distinguishes four souls: the vegetative, animal and rational souls, and a separate intelligence, to which the human soul is related like the moon to the sun. (15) In man there is the body, an animal soul and a divine spirit, which is the truth (al-aqq) which was breathed into Adam. (16) He defines spirit as "a light airy body", (17) whereas the soul is a power flowing into bodies from the heavenly spheres and has no stability. (18)

    Human happiness

Happiness, according to Ibn-Masarra, consists in knowing God the best we can by reason or revelation. This makes one ready for the company of God and for the vision of his being (kunh-hu) as the promised reward. Those who close their eyes to the truth have an unhappy end. (19)

    The society of the virtuous

For Ibn-Masarra, human society is, like the world of nature, hierarchical. Under God, prophets, religious scholars (`ulamâ') and philosophers (hukamâ') correspond to the human soul. Kings and other rulers correspond to the animal soul, and workers correspond to the vegetative soul. (20)

    Faith and reason

Ibn-Masarra opens his Risâla al-i`tibâr with the question whether prophecy is the only way of knowledge. He goes on to explain that God gave us an intellect to know him as he knows himself. We know him through the world, which is like a book. We also know him through the prophets; they not only tell of God's highest attributes, but also point to earthly signs of God. Prophesy starts at God's throne and goes down, whereas philosophy starts from the earth and goes up. While philosophy confirms the truth of prophecy, prophecy cannot be understood without philosophy. (21) Nevertheless, philosophers sometimes make mistakes in trying to describe the order of creation under God. Prophets in such cases correct them. (22)

By way of critique, we may praise Ibn-Masarra for defending the autonomy of philosophy and its ability to discover truths that are normally considered the domain of religion. Yet Muslim (and Christian) theologians would not agree that philosophy can discover all the truths proposed by revelation.

Risâla al-i`tibâr

Peace be with you, and the mercy of God. For you, I praise God, who is the only God, and bless his Prophet, and I ask his cover in all things.

I recall—God show you his mercy—that you read in some book that one must not argue from inference, going from what is lowest in the world to what is highest, but should follow the model of reasoning that the prophets used, starting from above and descending to what is lowest. And you sought to know the truth of this matter and so see it exemplified.

Know—God help us and you—first of all that God, the Mighty and Majestic, gave his servants intellects, which are lights from his light, so that by them they could see what pertains to him and know his determination. Thus they bear witness to God by the same means by which he bears witness to himself and the angels bear witness to him, along with his creatures who have knowledge.

Next, the Mighty and Majestic made everything he created in heaven and earth into signs pointing to Himself, explaining his Lordship and his attributes. For the whole world is a book. Its letters are his speech. Those who want to see by the vision of correct thought read it according to its outer meaning which is concealed, but uncovered to those who see what is veiled to anyone who is not serious. "He turned from thinking of Us, desiring only the present life" (Qur'ân 53:29). That is the totality of his knowledge, the range of his thought and the limit of his concern. His vision does not go beyond what he notices with his eyes. God, the Mighty and Majestic, said, "Have they not looked at the majesty of the heavens and the earth and everything He created?" (Q. 7:185). So it should be clear to you that everything He created is a subject for study and a call for reasoning towards Him. He said of his holy praiseworthy people who tried to understand: "They consider the creation of the heavens and the earth: 'Lord you did not create this in vain'" (Q. 3:191).

Yes, by God, thinking led them to understanding, and the heavens and the earth bore witness to them of what prophecy announced, namely, that He did not creat this ordered, designed and balance world in vain, and that he created it for retribution. So, as they cried for help from the Fire, they could not help but confess "Praise be to You. Shield us from the punishment of the Fire" (Q. ibid.).

In his Book the Mighty and Majestic pointed out, urged, repeated and appealed to the use of reason, thinking and understanding. He spoke of it in connection with other things and separately. He began with this and came back to it, whenever that would happen to be of benefit to his servants and would revive their hearts. He sent his prophets—God's blessings be upon them—to announce and explain hidden things to men, witnessing to them by obvious signs, so as to bring them to the certitude for which they will be rewarded, for which they will be responsible and for which they will have to give an account. He said, "He plans the affair, He distinguishes the signs, so that you can be sure that you will meet your Lord" (Q. 13:2). And he said, "When they finally came, He said, 'Have you treated my signs as false, never comprehending them? Or what were you doing?'" (Q. 27:84).

So the messengers prophecied about God's order, beginning with what is greatest and primary in God's pofile. They pointed to God, whose countenance is majestic, to his beautiful attributes, how He began his creation and completed it, and then mounted His throne; they also described the seat of his kingship, His heavens and His earth etc., and commanded us to take that as a source of inference. He showed how to begin doing that from the signs of the earth, as when he said, "O men, worship your Lord Who created you as well as those who went before you—so that you may be reverent, Who made the earth your mat, and the heavens a building, Who sent rain down from heaven and by it brought out fruits for your sustenance" (Q. 2:21-22). And he said, "O men, fear your Lord, who created you from one person" (Q. 4:1). And "God splits the grain, and the kernel brings out something living from the dead, and something dead from the living" (Q. 6:95). And "On the earth are signs for the convinced, and they are within yourselves too. Will you not understand?" (Q. 51:20-21).

Thus the world and all creatures in it are steps by which those who make inference mount to the great signs of God which are above. For one who climbs must go from the lowest to the highest. Thus such people climb when their intellects go up from what their lowly status until they end up at the height of such signs as the attributes of the prophets. Thus when they think, they understand; when they understand, they find the truth, exactly as the messengers—blessings be upon them—told it, and as these described the truth from God. For it agrees with it and confirms it. There is no difference in it when you get close to it. It is exactly the same.

So they find that inference bears witness to prophecy and confirms it. And they find that prophecy agrees with inference and does not differ from it. So demonstration lends support and Certitude shines brightly, and hearts thereby arrive at the truths of Faith.

Thus, by this way that the Book has indicated and the messengers have pointed to, light is acquired which can never be extinguished. And true understanding is enriched, enabling those who are drawn near to come close to their Lord, and they reach in this worl and the next that place which is praised by others. And they see the Unseen with the understanding of their hearts and know the knowledge of the Book, while their hearts bear witness to it that it is the truth. God the Most High said, "Is the one who knows that what was sent down to you from your Lord is the truth to be compared with one who is blind? Only the strong-hearted think, those who fulfil their pact with God and do not violate the covenant... and they fear an evil giving of account" (Q. 13:19-20, 21).

Then he close the sűra and concluded the whole passage with the following: "Those who disbelieve say. 'You were not sent.' Say, 'It is enough that God is witness between me and you. He has knowledge of the Book.'" (Q. 13:43).

No mortal can arrive at knowledge of the Book until he compares revealed information with inference, and he verifies what is received by hearing by what is had by direct understanding. May God include us and you among those who are convinced and understand.

As for illustrating this type of reasoning from the lowest parts of the world to the highest, there are many examples with many different aspects, all of them leading to the same result. Among them, an observer can look at any of three things: animals, plants or minerals. If he looks at plants, he can observe a dead stick [in the ground] without life and see how nourishment moves in it from the bottom upwards and spreads through different kinds of parts—which are nourished by it without any overdose. These are the stem, the leaves, the flowers, the fruit and the kernels. He observes that this nourishment goes up and spreads outwards and remarks, "The nature of water is to move downwards. Another force must have deflected the water from its nature, which is opposed to this force." But he found nothing that moves upward by its nature except fire. Suppose that fire lifted the water against the natural motion of water.

Then he observed the repartition of that nourishment and its even distribution away from its [normal] channel and resting place. Thus he observed that this nourishment, consisting of simple water in simple earth and simple air, is divided into such different varieties: the hard stem, moist branches, flexible leaves, soft fruit, sweet kernels, bark, buds, flowers of different colours, feel, texture and smell. "They are given the same water, yet we make some of them better than others for eating" (Q. 13:4).

He knew that besides water and fire there is only air and earth. And there is no division in the nature of any of these four. And he observed that water, fire, earth and air are opposites which are not reconcilable with one another. So something else is needed to reconcile these opposites, turning them from their natural differences into a harmony which is contrary to their essences, distributing the nourishment through the natures of those things, dividing the nourishment and turning it into the different parts of the plant at the right time. The harmonizer of these irreconcilable differences and the director of the nourishment in these different directions, turning it into these various species, cannot be subject to necessity and to a limited nature like these natures, because from a determined single nature can arise only one kind of thing, with a single kind of movement and a single colouring. That is because a determined nature is determined by something outside itself, while of itself it has an indication of dependence and being owned.

So he observed water, and it could not match this discription. He observed earth, and it failed. He observed fire, and it failed. He observed air, and it failed. So his observation was forced to go beyond these things by thought, looking for what, by nature's witness, necessitates something else. He was forced to flee, with his heart's understanding, to what is beyond these things, since what harmonizes them with their differences and turns them from their natural inclinations must be above them, encompassing them and be higher and greater than them. So his research energy mounted to the first heaven, and he said, "Maybe here is the limit of these four natures." Then he found a heaven above this heaven, and another beyond, as indicated by spheres subservient to what they contain, such as the sun, moon, stars, so that up to seven spheres can be counted by the eye. He then inferred from them that they are individuals possessing different shapes and directions, different colours, with parts, ends and movement that is controlled and subjected. They have no independence, and their paths do not deviate. This is just like what was observe with plants of the earth at the beginning of the inferential process. It is under the same harmonization, necessity and subjection as the things below. So observation of nature is forced to the conclusion that the planner of the heavens is above them and encompasses them

So when the researcher moved through the lower world, looking for an indication of what is above that, it found a fifth substance, more noble and elevated than the four. This is the independent animal spirit, which has hearing, sight, movement and understanding. So he said, "This noble animal soul which (he saw) ranks before everything else, while every other thing has less independence and understanding—this must be what encompasses the body of this world above the seventh heaven and what carries it by its motion, just as it carries this animal body, moves it from place to place, and encompasses it outwardly and inwardly. So he said, "This is the surrounding sphere, the sphere of the soul, the world of the soul." And he found the place of the chair and the place of the spirit standing, surrounding and existing for sensible creation above the seventh heaven. For the seven heavens, with their weight and the immensity of their bodies, cannot move themselves. Their mover can only be vaster, wider and higher than them. It is impossible, according to the witness of our hearts, for this mighty soul and great encompassing spirit to be under these earthly and mortal things. The Mighty and Majestic said, "Look a second time and it will have toppled" (Q. 67:4), as the observer turns away his look. So this spiritual soul, which nobler than the four natural powers, is under the same limitations as these harmonized natures which make up the bodily parts of an animal. It too is apportioned and restricted to limits it may not transgress, confined in its essence which it may not transcend, held by a leash, and under subjugation, servitude and humiliation, characterized by inability. It has been conferred a certain power which it cannot exceed; it is incapable of anything beyond that. So troubles beset it when it least suspects, and it has no protection. For it sleeps, become weak, suffers pain, and has good and bad moods. Besides that, it plays, grows from small to large, moves from youth to old age, suffers defects and excess, shortage and abundance, and has other marks of being owned and in servitude.

So if this happens to a soul which is separated from that great soul, the same must apply necessarily and equally to the original soul. So the great soul is under the same subjugation, humiliation and inability as everything under it. It is subject to restriction of aim, and this directs its limited powers and carries them towards this. So he finds that this soul and its behaviour are under a leash, which it cannot ignore, as it is restrained from doing what is beyond is range of activity. Goals are set for its activity, and when it reaches them it must confess its powerlessness, and it returns tired to its station. Its thoughts and intentions come to it from elsewhere. It bears clear marks of subjugation and being owned. So the researcher knows that there is something above this and desires to find a trace of it in the lower world which will lead him to it. So he found a soul whose essence is motion and submission to the intellect, since it is commanded. This soul was found to have motion and life without an intellect; therefore it was deprived of choice and free movement, although it had motion and life. So he knew that such a soul and the intellect are two different things, and that movement and life are of the essence of this soul, and that the intellect was mounted on it from above. The intellect owns it and manages it; it controls its movements, measures its will and carries it along according to its own choice, not the soul's choice. It must therefore be higher, greater and nobler than it.

By natural instinct we know that there must be a power surrounding the great soul, corresponding to it, and that this power must be higher and nobler than it, with power to impose its plans and equity on it and on the world carried by it. From this power comes all understanding, knowledge, insight and demonstration. So the researcher said, "This is the sphere of the intellect, the world of the intellect." So they found the place of the throne, the location of the high decrees and the great will. So praise be to God, the Lord of the great throne.

Then the researcher observed and came to the conclusion that the intellect corresponds to this animal soul and is confined with it, and had taken on its limitations and time. So, in spite of its nobility and dignity, it is stationed at a boundary, beyond which it is powerless. So it grows with the soul, increasing and decreasing, becoming pure or becoming dirty. Troubles beset it, and thoughts come to it from outside its essence, it knows not from where. And it bears obvious signs of weakness, humiliation and servitude. So above it is a planner which gave it its determination, goal and limits, and imposed on it good and evil, ideas and happenings, from where it does not know. Therefore there is above it a master who owns it and everything below it, since everything below it is less than it.

[This is] the One, the Creator, surrounding and sustaining all that he created, Who "prevents the heavens and the earth from passing away," the Doer of whatever he wishes—He is exalted very greatly.

The preceding is an example of an inferential demonstration. Very eager devotees of this were those stubborn people called philosophers, who had no straightforward intention; so they missed the point and departed from it, wandering in stupid theories which contain no light. They only saw the origin of that and called it something (??), or they found a trace of it left from the prophecy of Abraham—God's blessings be upon him—where he studied heavenly creatures to infer the existence of their Creator. Without intending so, they ruined that way and missed it.

Then the prophets came—God's blessings be upon them—and said, "Your Lord Who created you and those who went before you" (Q. 2:21) is one. He is the Truth and has no partner—"There is nothing like Him" (Q. 42:11). He is greater than everything. No region can contain Him. The mind cannot comprehend or grasp Him, since He has no beginning or end, and He is the First, before everything that has a goal or an end. Everything below him has been brought into being, is limited and distinguished by that.

The first thing he created was the throne and the water, and he wrote on the throne all his decrees and decisions and what his will settled upon. For there is nothing in the world that he wishes otherwise, and nothing happens without his permission. His throne encompasses all things, high above them and binding them all. Under that is his chair, which is as wide as the heavens and the earth. He preserves and sustains the throne and the chair without inconvenience or preoccupation.

He really mounted above the throne, yet he is closer to everthing than it is to itself, in spite of his exaltation and holiness. For he created these seven heavens under his throne in six days and he placed in them the sun and the bright moon and the stars which swim in the spheres, subject to a measure imposed upon them. None of them races ahead of another. And he "created pairs, all of them from what the earth produces or from themselves or from what they do not know" (Q. 36:36).

So the researcher observed that most high Master and asked, "Is he limited?" —as everything under him is limited, with a limited knowledge and in search of knowledge, just as the intellect corresponds to the soul, and the soul (or the intellect's limitation [text corrupt]), by His traces and signs, to something. For there can be nothing above the intellect touching it or corresponding with it, common sense tells us. Since the Greatest and Most High is above fitting into something limited and is above the throne and limited representations, and He must encompass every encompassing and be higher than any height, He must be outside all conceptualization, since concepts are intellectual representations of things, which are imitations of the exemplars. Therefore intelligences are limited, and there can be nothing above a limited thing corresponding to it, [but it is] higher than it and embrasive of it, whereas a limited thing cannot embrace or encompass it, if what we say agrees with reality and does not differ from it.

From this if follows that the Most High can have no representation, no limit, no hand, no part and no goal, for these are incompatible with his oneness and greatness. So the Most High King is above any genus, except in demonstrations pointing to Hm or in the traces He sketched in His creation which bears witness to His Lordship. Our intelligence tell us that he must necessarily have existence, but no representation or genus. Observation and research bear witness that there is nothing in the world that is self-subsistent, but it all depends on something else. And it is clear that were that other to be like things that are not self-subsistent, it likewise could not subsist by itself. So, from all research and every consideration, it is necessary to call for something [to account] for His works [that come] from Him. No one with intelligence can escape the conclusion that He is the Lord, King and Creator of this world. "There is nothing like him" (Q. 42:11), and nothing he created can share with him. He is unlike everything he created in essence and status, although he with everything in time, knowledge and appearance. All things have need of him, since every trace of activity and harmony implies dependence on another, the lower on the higher in a chain leading to the highest, which is the Ultimte Reality. Thus he finds the distinction of things, their mutation and harmonization is the effect of something else; it is not from their essences. Likewise, he finds that intelligences are like what is below them in their need for Him.

At this point you have found your Lord and your Creator. You have met Him yourself and seen Him. You have viewed the space of His nearness by looking for Him by the avenue opened to you towards Him. It has shown you all his kingdom bound by his reins, confined within his grasp, ordered by his decree, standing within his limits, compelled to follow his will and desire. No one rules it but He, and nothing can operate in it without His permission. Praise be to Him, for He has made all His creatures in His heavens and His earth signs pointing to Him, witnesses of his Lordship, greatness, justice, mercy and his beautiful names.

Anyone who thinks and infers, turning to his Lord, will see that in himself and in everything in this world as well, and will see that everything is in need of Him and dependent on what comes from Him. For He sustains and hold them. If it were not for Him, they would perish and be nothing.

Then narrate, follow, have your fill of and explain his other beautiful attributes and names which are connected with inference, as it was linked with the preceding. His signs bear witness to it all and speak of it. And one aspect of it witness to the other; the first points to the last, and the last points to the first. What is outside supports what is inside, and what is inside what is outside.

The more the person engaged in inference observes, the more he understands. The more he understands, the more sure, consistent, certain and perspicacious he becomes.

Prophetic revelation came, beginning with the throne and descending to the earth. In every aspect it is in agreement with inference ascending from the earth to the throne. There is no difference.

There is no plain tiding coming from God without there being in the world a sign pointing to that tiding. And there is no sign in the world pointing to a tiding without there being a prophecy announcing it and calling attention to it, either in detail or in a general way. Since demonstration is in agreement, and prophecy is shown to be true when illustrated by God's effects which are understood, the intellect is forced to confess that this Power confines it, encompasses it and is above it. If he is blind to it and tries to escape its control, he moves outside of all protection and he has no refuge but the Fire below, since he is cut off from God's patronage. But if he holds onto it, he will rise by the means it provides and draw near to God who can be seen. He will enjoy more and more of God's patronage until he advances to stand openly on his own feet. Such people will stand firm in the haven of God the Most High, who there protects His holy ones who look to His protection desiring to know Him. Their exalted and heavenly zeal went up to the haven of their Lord, resting in the hope of what was promised to them—"the true recompense which they were promised" (Q. 46:16). But woe to the careless, "whose eyes were closed to awareness of Me" (Q. 18:101). "That is God's favour, which he gives to those He wishes. God is the Master of great favour" (Q. 57:21).

The end of Risâla al-i`tibâr
with praise to God and His help
and blessings on MuŚammad and his family.

رسالة الاعتبار

لابن مسرة

سلام عليك ورحمة الله، فإني أحمد إليك الله الذي لا إله إلا هو وأصلي على نبيه، وأسأله الصداد في جميع الأمور.

ذكرت — رحمك الله — أنك قرأت في بعض الكتب أنه لا يجد المستدل بالاعتبار من أسفل العالم إلى الأعلى إلا مثل ما دلت عليه الأنبياء من الأعلى إلى الأسفل، وتطلعت إلى تحقيق ذلك وتمثيله

ذكرت — رحمك الله — أنك قرأت في بعض الكتب أنه لا يجد المستدل بالاعتبار من أسفل العالم إلى الأعلى إلا مثل ما دلت عليه الأنبياء من الأعلى إلى الأسفل، وتطلعت إلى تحقيق ذلك وتمثيله

اعلم — وفقنا الله وإياك أن أول ذلك — أن الله عز وجل إنما جعل لعباده العقول التي هي نور من نوره، ليبصروا بها أمره، ويعرفوا بها قدره فشهدوا الله بما شهد به لنفسه، وشهدت له به ملائكته وأولو العلم من خلقه.

ثم جعل — عز و جل — كل ما خلق من سمائه وأرضه أيات دالات عليه، معربة بروبيبته، وصفاته الحسنى، فالعالم كله كتاب. حروفه كلامه، يقرأه المستبصرون بعيان الفكرة الصادقة على حسب الظاهرة المكنونة المكشوفة لمن رأى المحجوبة عمن تلهى "وتولى عن ذكرنا ولم يرد إلا الحياة الدنيا" [1] فهي مبلغ علمه، ومجال فكرته، ومنتهى همته، فلا يجاوز بصره ما لحظه بعينه. قال الله — عز وجل — "أو لم ينظروا في ملكوت السموات والأرض وما خلق من شيء"[2] فتبين لك أن كل ما خلق من شيء موضوع للفكرة، ومطلب للدلالات. وقال في أوليائه المستبصرين الذين أثنى عليهم: "ويتفكرون في خلق السموات والأرض ربنا ما خلقت هذا باطلاً."[3]

أجل، والله لقد أطلعتهم الفكرة على البصيرة، فشهدت لهم السماء والأرض بما نبأت النبوة، أنه ما خلق هذا العالم المنضد المحكم الموزون باطلاً، وأنه للجزاء خلقه، فاستعاذوا — مع إقرارهم- من النار، فقالوا "سبحانك فقنا عذاب النار."[4]

ونبه — عز وجل- وحض وكرر، ورغب في كتابه على التفكير والتذكر والتبصر فوصل به وفصل، وأبدأ به وأعاد، حسب موقع ذلك من منافع العباد وإحيائه لقلوبهم. وبعث الأنبياء صلاة الله عليهم وبركاته ينبئون الناس ويبينون لهم الأمور الباطنة، ويستشهدون عليهم بالآيات الظاهرة، ليبلغ الناس إلى اليقين الذي عليه يثابون، وبه يطلبون، وعنه يسألون. قال "يدبر الأمر يفصل الآيات لعلكم بلقاء ربكم توقنون."[5] وقال "حتى إذا جاءوا قال أكذبتم بآياتي ولم تحيطوا بها علماً، أم ماذا كنتم تعملون؟"[6]

فنبأت الرسل عن أمر الله تعالى، وافتتحت بلأعظم فالأعظم، والأول فالأول في الصفة. فدلت على الله عز وجهه، وعلى صفاته الحسنى وكيف بدأ خلقه وأنشأه واستوى على عرشه، وكرسي ملكوته وسماواته وأرضه إلى آخر ذلك، وأمرنا بالاعتبار لذلك، وأشار إلى البدو [=البدأ] فيه من أيات الآرض كقوله تعالى "يأيها الناس اعبدوا ربكم الذي خلقكم والذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون الذي جعل لكم الأرض فراشاً والسماء بناءً، وأنزل من السماء ماء فأخرج به من الثمرات رزقاً لكم،"[7] وقوله تعالى: "يأيها الناس اتقوا ربكم الذي خلقكم من نفس واحدة،"[8] وقوله: "إن الله فالق الحب والنوى يخرج الحي من الميت ويخرج الميت من الحي،"[9] وقال: "وفي الأرض آيات للموقنين، وفي أنفسكم أفلا تبصرون."[10]

فالعالم وخلائقه كلها وآياته درج يتصعد فيها المعتبرون إلى ما في أعلا من آيات الله الكبرى، والمترقي إنما يترقي من الأسفل إلى الأعلى، فهم يترقون بتصعد العقول من مقامهم سفلا إلى ما انتهت إليه من صفات الأنبياء من الآيات أعلا. فإذا فكروا أبصروا، وإذا أبصروا وجدوا الحق واحدًا على ما حكت الرسل عليهم الصلام، وعلى ما وصفوا به الحق عن الله، وإنه متفق متصادق، لا اختلاف فيه من حيث ما أنيته، فهو هو.

فوجدوا الاعتبار يشهد للنبأ فيصدقه، ووجدوا النبأ موافقاً للاعتبار لا يخالفه فتعاضد البرهان وتجلى اليقين وأفضت القلوب إلى حقائق الإيمان.

فبهذه الطريقة التي دل عليها الكتاب وأرشدت إليها الرسل يكتسب النور الذي لا يطفأ أبداً.  وتستفاد البصائر الصادقة التي بها اقترب المتقربون من ربهم، وصلوا في الدنيا والآخرة إلى المقام المحمود عن غيرهم، وعاينوا الغيب بأبصار قلوبهم، وعلموا علم الكتاب، وشهدت قلوبهم له أنه الحق. قال الله تعالى: "أفمن يعلم إنما أنزل إليك من ربك هو الحق كمن هو أعمى؟ إنما يتذكر أولو الألباب. الذين يوفون بعهد الله، ولا ينفضون الميثاق" — إلى قوله "ويخافون سوء الحساب."[11]

ثم ختم السورة وعقد الكلام كله إلى قوله: "ويقول الذين كفروا لست مرسلاً، قل كفى بالله شهيداً بيني وبينكم ومن عنده علم الكتاب."[12]

ولا يصل بشر إلى معرفة علم الكتاب حتى يقرن الخبر بالاعتبار، ويحقق السماع بالاستبصار — جعلنا الله وإياكم من الموقنين المستبصرين.

فأما تمثيل هذا الاستدلات من أسفل العالم إلى أعلاه فله أمثلة كثيرة ووجوه شتى كلها تفضي إلى مخرج واحد، فمن ذلك أن ينظر الناظر إلى إحدى الثلاث: الحيوان أو النبات أن الموات. فنظر إلى النبات فرأى عوداً مواتاً لا حياة به ونظر إلى حركة الغذاء فيه مندفعة إلى أعلا من أسفله مفصلة على أقسام، قد غذيت عليها فلا تعدوها، من ضروب مختلفة، عود وقشر وورقة ونوارة وثمرة ونواة ونظر إلى ذلك الغذاء، فإذا هو صاعد علوًا وآخذ عرضاً فقال: إن طبيعة الماء تتحرك سفلاً، فليست هذه الحركة المتصعدة عن طبيعة، فوجب ثم شيء آخر أزال الماء عن طبيعته التي هي ضده، فلم تجد شيئاً يتحرك بطبعه علواً إلا النار فسلم أن [الماء] ناراً رفعت الماء على ضد حركة الماء.

ونظر إلى تقسيم ذلك الغذاء وتعديله عن مجاريه ومستقره، فعلم أن ليس في طبيعة الماء ولا النار التقسيم ولا التفصيل. فنظر إلى ذلك الغذاء الذي هو ماء واحد في أرض واحدة، وهواء واحد، وهو ينفصل إلى تلك الضروب المختلفة عن عود صليب، وغصن رطيب، وورقة رخوة وثمرة لينة ونواة لطيفة، وقشر ونبات، ونوراة مختلفة الألوان والمجسات والطعوم والأرابيح [= والأرياح] "يسقى بماء واحد ونفضل بعضها على بعض في الأكل."[13]

فعلم أن الماء والنار ليس معهما إلا الهواء والأرض. فلم يكن في طبع واحد من هؤلاء الأربعة من التفصيل شيء ونظر إلى الماء والنار والأرض والهواء. فإذا هي أضداد لا تأتلف من قبل أنفسها، فوجب مؤلف بين هذه الأضداد يردها عن اختلافها الذي هو طبعها إلى الائتلاف الذي هو خلاف ذاتها. ووجب مقسم لهذا الغذاء في طبائعها، ووجب مفصل لهذا الغذاء، محيل لهذه الضروب على أطوارها فوجب أن المؤلف لهذه الأضداد المتنافرة والمسلك لهذا الغذاء في هذه الجهات المختلفة المحيل له إلى هذه الأنواع المتشتتة، ليس بذي ضرورة ولا طبيعة محصورة كهذه الطبوعات، لأن الطبيعة المحصورة الواحدة لا يحيا منها إلا فصل واحد، وحركة واحدة ولون واحد، لأن الطبيعة المحصورة لها من غيرها حاصر، وعليها من نفسها دليل الفقر والمملكة.

فنظر إلى الماء فانتفى عن هذه الصفة، ونظر إلى الأرض وانتفت منها ونظر إلى النار فانتفت منها، وإلى الهواء، فانتفى، فاضطر النظر إلى أن يجاوز بفكره هذه الأشياء، طالباً لما أوجب في شهادة الفطرة سواها وأن يفر ببصره قلبه إلى ما وراها، إذ وجب أن يكون المؤلف لها في اختلافها، المصرف لها عن طبائعها فوقها ومحيطاً بها وأعلى منها وأكبر، فارتقت الهمة الباحثة إلى السماء الأولى، فقال لعل هذا منتهى هذه الطبائع الأربع، فإذا هو فوق السماء سماء، وفوق السماء سماء دلت عليها الأفلاك المسخرة بما فيها من الشمس والقمر والنجوم إلى سبعة أفلاك ظاهرة العيان. فلما اعتبرها فإذا هي أشخاص ذات أشكال وجهات مختلفة وألوان مختلفة ذات أجزاء ونهايات وحركة مزمومة مسخرة لا تصرف فيها ولا تعدو طرائقها مشاكلة لما بدأ به الاعتبار من نبات الأرض. قد لزمها من التأفيف والضرورات والتسخير ما لزم ما تحتها سواء. فوجب الشهادة بالفطرة أن المدبر لها فوقها ومحيطاً بها.

فلما جال في أسفل العالم يطلب الدليل على ما فوق ذلك، وجد في الأسفل شيئاً خامساً هو أشرف من هذه الأربعة وأرفع، وهو الروح الحيوانية المتصرفة ذات السمع والبصر والحركة والفهم فقال هذه النفس الروحانية الشريفة التي رأى سائر الأشياء تبعاً لها، رأى كل شيء دونها في الفهم والتصرف، هي المحيطة بجسم هذا العالم فوق السماء السابعة، حاملة لها بحركتها، كما حملت هذا الجسم الحيواني ونقلته وأحاطت بظاهره وباطنه فقال هذا فلك محيط، فلك النفس، عالم النفس، فوجد مكان الكرسي ومكان الروح قائماً محيطاً موجوداً لحس الفطرة فوق السماء السابعة، ولا يمكن أن تكون هذه السموات السبع بثقلها وعظم أجرامها حاملة نفسها، ولا يمكن أن يكون حاملها إلا أعظم منها إحاطة وأوسع سعة وأعلى علواً، ولا يمكن في شهادة القلوب أن تكون هذه النفس العظيمة والروح المحيطة الكبرى تحت هذه الأشياء الأرضية الموات. قال عز وجل "ثم ارجع البصر كرتين ينقلب"[14] برجع الناظر ببصره، فإذًا هذه النفس الروحانية التي هي أشرف من هذه القوى الأربع الطبيعية قد لزمها نحو ما لزم هذه الطبائع المؤلفة التي هي مجزأة في الحيوان، مفصلة موقوفة على حدود لا تعدوها، محصورة في نهاية لا تجاوزها، مزمومة بزمام التسخير والعبودية والذلة، موسومة بسمة العجز قد تجعل لها قوة لا تجاوزها، عاجزة عما وراءها. وإذا بالآفات تأخذها من حين لا تعلم، ولا تمتنع فهي تنام وتذهل وتألم وتسر وتحزن، وهي مع ذلك تلهو وتنشؤ من صغر إلى كبر، وترجع من شبيبة إلى هرم، فيأخذها النقص والزيادة والقلة والكثرة وسائر الأعلام الدالة على المملكة والعبودية.

فلما وجب على هذه النفس المفصلة من النفس الكبرى ذلك، وجب أن ذلك لاحق لأصل الشيء حكم واحد ضرورة، فلزم ذلك النفس الكبرى من التسخير والتذليل والعجز ما لزم ما تحتها ولزمها وانحصار الغاية وألحد طاقاتها المحدودة وحملها إياه. ووجد على هذه النفس مع تصرفها زماماً لم يهمل عنها مع فصلها على ما لا تتصرف تصرفها. قد جعل لتصرفها غايات، إذا انتهت إليها أقرت بالعجز، ورجعت حاسرة مقرة، وأتتها خواطرها ونواياها من قبل غيرها، ووجدت آثار التسخير، والملك بينة فيها، فعلم أن فوقها غيرها، وابتغى لذلك أثراً في السفلى يستدل به فوجد هذه النفس إنما ذاتها الحركة والأنقياد للعقل فإنها مأمورة.  ووجدت قائمة الحركة والحياة دون أن تكون ذات عقل فتكون حينئذ مسلوبة الاختيار والتصريف، وهي قائمة الحركة والحياة. فعلم أنها والعقل شيآن وأن الحركة والحياة من ذاتها. وأن العقل مركب فيها من فوقها، هو يملكها ويصرفها. ويقلب حركاتها ويزن لها إرادتها ويحملها على اختياره دون اختيارها، فوجب أنه أعلى منها وأعظم وأشرف.

فوجب بحس الفطرة قوة محيطة بالنفس الكبرى مطابقة لها وهي أعلى منها وأشرف من قبلها بتفضل التدبير والتعديل فيها وفي العالم المحمول عليها. وعنها يكون الفهم والعلم والبصائر والبرهان كله. فقال هذا فلك العقل. عالم العقل، فوجدوا مكان العرش — وموضع المقادير العلا والمشيئة الكبرى، فسبحان الله رب العرش العظيم.

ثم نظر الباحث فأحكم النظر فإذا العقل مطابق لهذه النفس الحيوانية. محصور معها، قد أخذت حدودها وزمانها، وإذا هو مع شرفه وفضله موقوف على نهاية يعجز عما وراءها، وإذا به ينشؤ مع النفس فيزيد وينقص ويصفو ويكدر، وإذا الآفات تأخذه، والخواطر تقع به من غير ذاته، ومن حيث لا يعلم، فإذا علامات العجز والتذليل والمملكة قائمة فيه، بينة عليه، وإذا فوقه مدبر قد جعل له قدراً وغاية وحداً، وأطلق عليه الخير والشر والخاطر والعارض من حيث لا يعلم، فوجب ضرورة لازمة أن فوقه مالكاً له ولجميع ما تحته، إذ جميع ما تحته دونه.

الواحد الخالق المحيط المقيم على جميع ما خلق، الذي "يمسك السموات والأرض أن تزولا" الفعال لما يشاء وتعالى علواً كبيراً.

فهذا مثال من استدلال الاعتبار، وهو الذي دار عليه وابتغاه المتنطعون المسمون بالفلاسفة بغير نية مستقيمة فأخطأوه، وفصلوا عنه، فتاهوا في الترهات التي لا نور فيها: وإنما رأوا أصل ذلك شيئًا سموه، أو وجدوا رسمه أثارة من نبوة إبراهيم صلى الله عليه وسلم في اعتبار خلائق الملكوت للدلالة على باريه. فأردوا تلك السبيل بغير نية فأخطأوها.

وجاءت الأنبياء صلوات الله عليهم فقالوا: إن "ربكن الذي خلقكم والذين من قبلكم" واحد،[15] حق لا شريك له "ليس كمثله شيء،"[16] وهو أعظم من كل شيء. لا تأخذه الأقطار، ولا تحيط به ولا تدركه الأبصار، لأنه لا نهاية له ولا بداية وهو الأول قبل كل ذي غاية وذي نهاية، وكل شيء دونه محدث محدود مفصل بذلك.

فأول ما خلق العرش والماء وكتب في عرشه جميع مقاديره وقضاياه، وما تجري عليه إرادته، فليس في العالم إرادة لغيره، ولا شيء إلا بإذنه، وعرشه محيط بالأشياء كلها، عال فوقها زام لها. وتحت ذلك كرسيه الذي وسع السموات والأرض وهو حافظهما وقيمهما دون كلفة أو مباشرة.

وإنه استوى فعلاً فوق العرش وهو أقرب إلى كل شيء من نفسه، مع تعاليه وتقدسه، وإنه خلق هذه السموات السبع تحت عرشه في سته أيام، وجعل فيها سراجاً وقمراً منيراً، ونجوماً سابحة في أفلاكها، مسخرة على تقدير لها موزون. لا يسبق شيء منها شيئاً وإنه "خلق الأزواج كلها مما تنبت والأرض ومن أنفسهم ومما لا يعلمون."[17]

فنظر في ذلك المالك الأعلى: أمحدود هو؟ كما أن جميع ما تحته محدود بعلم بحدوده مطالباً للعلم كما طابق العقل النفس وكما طابقت النفس (أو أن حدوده) بآثاره وآياته لشيء إذا لم يمكن فوق العقل شيء يباشره أو يطابقه في حس الفطرة. فلما ارتفع المتعالي الأكبر عن مباشرة المحدود وارتفع عن عرش المحدود وعن مثال المحدود، ووجبت له إحاطة فوق كل إحاطة، وعلو فوق كل علو، فخرج بذلك عن الأوهام إذا الأوهام هي العقول الممثلة للأشياء المتمثلة للأمثلة.  فالعقول محدودة، فما كان فوق المحدود مطابقاً به، عالياً عليه، محتوياً له، فلا يمكن أن يكون المحدود يحتويه ولا يحيط به ليأتلف القول والحق ولا نختلف.

فوجب من ذلك أن المتعالي لا مثال له، ولا نهاية له. ولا يد له ولا جزء له ولا غاية له فلا دخل في وحدانيته وعظمته، فتعالى الملك الأعلى وارتفع عن الجنس له، إلا بالبراهين الدالة عليه، والآثار التي رسمها في بريته شاهدة له بربوبيته، فقام الوجود به اضطراراً في حس العقل مع عدم المثال والجنس، وشهد النظر عن البحث أن ليس في العالم شيء يقوم بنفسه، إلا بغيره، وتبين أن ذلك الغير لو كان مثل الأشياء التي لا تقوم بأنفسها لم يقم هو أيضاً بنفسه، فوجب من كل بحث وكل جهة وجوب اصطرار لشيء لأفعاله عنه ولا مخرج لذي عقل منه، ربا ملكا، مبتدعاً لهذا العالم. "ليس كمثله شيء،"[18] ولا يشاركه مما خلق شيء، قد باين كل ما خلق بالذات والحال، وهو مع كل شيء بالأزمنة والعلم والظهور، أفقر الأشياء كلها إليه، إذ كل أثر من تصريف وتأليف معلق بعضه، الأسفل بما فوقه منزلة حتى ينتهى إلى الأعلى الذي هو الحق الأقصى، فيجد تفصيله وتقليبه وتأليفه أثرا من غيره، ليس من ذاته.   ويجد به من العقول مثل ما وجدت ما تحته من الفقر إليه.

فحينئذ وجدت ربك وخالقك، فلقيته بنفسك وأبصرتك، وطالعت ساحة قربه بترقبك إليه من السبيل الذي قتح لك نحوه.  فأراك ملوكته كله مزموماً بزمامه، ومحصوراً في إحاطته، مرتباً بتقديره، متصرفاً بتدبيره، قائماً على نهاياته، مضطراً إلى إرادته ومشيئته، لا حاكم فيه غيره، ولا مسلك فيه لشيء دون إذنه — سبحانه وإنه جعل كل شيء خلقه في سماواته وأرضه آيات دالة عليه، شواهد بربوبيته وعظمته وعدله ورحمته، وأسمائه الحسنى.

من فكر واعتبر منيباً إلى ربه، وأبصر ذلك في نفسه وفي كل شيء في هذا العالم معه، وأن كل شيء فقير إليه، مضطر إلى ما عنده وهو قيمه وممسكه لولاه هلك وبطل.

ثم قصوا وتابعوا وشبعوا وبينوا من سائر صفاته الحسنى وأسمائه ما اتصل بالاعتبار كاتصال ما قبله، وشهدت بجميعه الآيات، ونطقت به. يشهد بعض ذلك بعضه، ويدلها أوله على آخره وآخره على أوله، ويعضد ظاهره باطنه وظاهره.

كلما ازداد المعتبر نظراً ازداد بصراً، وكلما ازداد بصراً ازداد تصديقاً وتوفيقاً ويقيناً واستبصاراً.

فجاء خبر النبوة مبتدئاً من جهة العرش نازلاً إلى الأرض فوافق الاعتبار الصاعد من جهة الأرض إلى العرش سواء بسواء: لا فرق.

ولم يأت نبأ عن الله بيناً إلا وفي العالم آية دالة على ذلك النبأ وليس في العالم آية دالة على نبأ إلا والنبوة قد نبأت به ونبهت عليه، إما تفصيلاً وإما مجملاً. فلما اتفق البرهان، وتصدق النبأ الموصوف بالأثر المفهوم، لزم العقل ضرورة الإقرار (بأن هذه القوة) حاصرة له محيطة به، عالية عليه. إن عمى عنها ورام الخروج عن حوزتها، خرج عن الكنف كله، فلم يكن له مأوى إلا النار السفلاى، لانقطاعه عن ولاية الله. وإن تمسك بها، وترقى في أسبابها، اقترب من الله المعين، واستزاد من ولايته قدماً حتى يتجلى على القدمين، ويشبتوا في جوار الله تعالى الذي كنف فيه أولياءه الناظرين إلى كنفه بابتغاء معرفته، وعلت بهم الهمم العالية السامية إلى جوار ربهم، والساكنة إلى الأمل المعقود لهم بوعد "الصدق الذي كانوا يوعدون."[19] فبؤساً للغافلين "الذين كانت أعينهم في غطاء عن ذكري"[20] "وذلك فضل الله يؤتيه من يشاء. والله ذو الفضل العظيم."[21]

تمت رسالة اعتبار بحمد الله ومنه
وصلواته على محمد وآله


1. For a the history of philosophy in the Muslim world and a thematic study of the teachings of each philosopher, see my Philosophy of the Muslim world: authors and principal themes, www.op.org/nigeriaop/kenny/isltheology.htm. Other of my articles on Muslim philosophers in Orita are: "Al-Fârâbî and the contingency argument for God's existence: a study of Risâla Zaynűn al-kabîr al-yűnânî,"28 (1996), 50-69; "Ibn-Sînâ on the human soul, in Notes and observations on natural science, Book II, Section 5,"29 (1997), 68-98; "The human intellect: Journey of an idea from Aristotle to Ibn-Rushd," 30 (1998), 65-84. All these articles are on the same Internet site.

2. Both ed. M. Kamâl Ja`far, Min at-turâth al-falsafî (Cairo, 1982), 59-74 & 75-110.

3. Pp. 64-69

4. Risâla al-i`tibâr, 67-70; cf. Khawa al-hurűf, 80.

5. Khawâss al-hurűf., p. 109.

6. Risâla al-i`tibâr, 71-72.

7. Ibid.

8. Khwâss al-hurűf, 76-77.

9. Pp. 76-78.

10. Risâla al-i`tibâr, p. 72.

11. Khawass al-hurűf, 77-81.

12. Pp. 87, 92.

13. Khawâss al-hurűf, 99, 106.

14. Risâla al-i`tibâr, pp. 67-69; Khawâss al-hurűf, p. 80.

15. Khawâss al-hurűf, pp. 87-91.

16. Ibid., 91, 97, 104.

17. Ibid., p. 101; cf. p. 108.

18. Ibid., p. 108.

19. Risâla al-i`tibâr, pp. 72-73.

20. Khawâss al-hurűf, p. 95.

21. Pp. 61-69, 72.

22. Pp. 69-70.


[1] النجم، 29

[2] الأعراف، 185

[3] آل عمران، 191

[4] نفس المصدر

[5] الرعد، 2

[6] النمل، 84

[7] البقرة، 21-22

[8] النساء، 1

[9] الأنعام، 95

[10] الذاريات، 20-21

[11] الرعد، 19-20، 21

[12] الرعد، 43

[13] الرعد، 4

[14] الملك، 4

[15] البقرة، 21

[16] الشورى، 11

[17] يس، 36

[18] الأنعام، 103

[19] الأحقاف، 16

[20] الكهف، 101

[21] الحديد، 21